Amazing Story on 1991 John Deere 4455 TractorJanuary 25, 2017
Sometimes tractors aren’t just tractors.
Often times they become more, almost like part of the family. Happy memories tied to time spent with family members. Quite often as I travel the country I find myself deep in conversation with folks regarding their family’s special or favorite tractor. I’ve always found it fascinating to listen to these stories. I always will. Thank you for sharing your tractor stories/memories with me.
Every once in a while, one of these tractor conversations stands out for some special reason, could be the way the person told the story with a glint or tear in the eye, could be the pictures of the tractor they share with me, could be anything really. Just for some reason….these particular tractor stories stand apart.
Folks, meet 26 year old Andrew Conrad, a Service Technician for Sloan Implement in Cuba City, WI (http://www.sloans.com)
I met Andrew 2 years ago at a February 2015 farm retirement auction in Sherrill, IA we were filming for our Machinery Pete TV show. Andrew was 24 at the time. We started visiting about his father Alan’s 1991 John Deere 4455 2WD tractor (Alan pictured above with his 1991 John Deere 4455, just under 3,000 hours on it now). Andrew recalled vividly years earlier when they bought this 4455 from a farmer in Illinois when it had around 1,400 hours on it. Andrew told the “story” on this tractor and what it meant to him and his family.
Days after that February 2015 auction Andrew sent me a paper he had written in class at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, IA, John Deere Technology Program. I remember thinking….”how cool, a young guy writing a college paper about his family’s tractor!” This 1991 John Deere 4455 did indeed have quite a “story”. I’ll let Andrew tell the tale…here was his very cool college paper:
“The 4455 - By Andrew Conrad” - In the spring of 2003 my father, Alan Conrad, was looking for a nice John Deere cab tractor. His interests were towards a John Deere 55 series tractor, especially a 4455. My father told me that spring, “If I can find a nice 4455 that’s been well kept up, and for the right price, I will buy it”. Many farmers, as well as my father understand that John Deere 55 series tractors are very coveted among farmers because they are the last series of John Deere tractors that were based off of the New Generation series of John Deere tractors. This story details the luck, timing, and happens to be one of the most memorable moments of farming with my father, when he purchased his John Deere 4455!
One night, my father was eating supper at work, and one of his coworkers, by the name of Steve Ernst, was scrolling through the classified ads in a farm paper. He noticed that a farmer had a John Deere 8 row wide corn planter for sale and a John Deere 4455 that had 1,600 original hours on the tachometer. Steve was looking for a corn planter at the time, and my father happened to be looking for a 4455. A few days later Steve called the farmer, but the corn planter happened to be sold. Steve told my father that he didn’t know if the tractor was sold or not. My father thought, “I’ll give the farmer a call”. Later, my father called him and he told my father that the tractor had a quad-range transmission, 2WD, with 1,600 original hours on the tachometer, the dual wheels sold with the tractor, and he said that the tractor was still for sale. My father then set up a time to meet with the farmer. My father loaded the whole family up in the car and drove us to Florence, Illinois, to take a look at the 4455, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in late March of 2003. We all carefully took a look at the tractor because the appearance of the tractor looked like “NEW!” Even the cab was in immaculate condition! My father and I jumped up in the cab and took it for a drive around the farmyard. Dad asked what I thought about the tractor, and I said “Well it’s a lot different sitting in a cab than sitting on the fender of the 1456 International Harvester.” My father laughed.
I also said, “It runs smooth and sitting in this cab, I can hardly hear the tractor run.” I grew up riding on the fender of the 1456 and had been my father’s main tractor for 18 years. My father purchased the 1456 with a chrome exhaust pipe. While operating the 1456 at wide open throttle during tillage applications, the 1456 operates very loudly and vibrates the operates plate form constantly. Dad talked with the farmer, Gale Otto, and he said “I will think on it and we will stay in touch!”
The next few days my father was thinking constantly about the 4455. He called Gale a few different times going back and forth about the price. My father told me Gale’s bottom dollar price on the tractor, and he asked me what he should do. I said, “Buy it, Dad! I’ve never sat in anything that nice before!”
“Alright, I will call him tomorrow night.”
The next night my father calls Gale back and says “I will purchase the 4455.”
Gale says in return “A farmer from South or North Carolina flew up here, looked at the tractor, and bought it.”
My father says, “Oh boy, the boys are going to be mad at me!”
Gale says in reply “I think there’s another 4455 in my area for sale but it might be sold. I can let you know tomorrow what the status of the other 4455 is.”
My father says, “Okay, see what you can do for me.” Dad gets off the phone and tells me the news and I say in reply “Oh, shoot!”
The reason Gale knew about the other 4455 happened to be because he and another farmer by the name of Michael Altoff farmed together. Gale farmed roughly 240 acres and Michael farmed 80 acres. They operated their farming operation around one farmer owning the tillage equipment, one farmer owning the corn planter, and another farmer owning the combine and grain cart. Gale and Gary bought two brand new John Deere 4455’s in February of 1991 from Murphy & Gustafson Implement, a John Deere dealership in Freeport, Illinois.
The two 4455s were back-to-back serial numbers. The only difference between the two tractors was that Gale’s 4455 had 18.4R-38 tires and Michael’s 4455 had 20.8R-38 tires. The tractors both rolled off of the assembly line on January 31, 1991 at the John Deere Waterloo, Iowa Tractor factory. Gale’s 4455 in the early years of the tractors life operated small farm chore jobs around his farm, such as making hay. But in later years the tractor was used only to plant the crops in the spring time of the year and cultivate the corn crop in June. Michael’s 4455 would disk the corn stalks in the fall time of the year with a 28 foot John Deere disk and operate a 24 foot John Deere 1010 field cultivator in the spring. The main reason why the tractors were for sale was because in the winter of 2002/2003 Michael walked out of the Murphy & Gustafson John Deere dealership in Freeport and kicked the bucket! Michael suffered a brain aneurism and passed on. The old joke was that Michael went into the dealership and priced what a new 7810 John Deere tractor would cost, and he was so shocked that he walked out and fell over dead. After his death, Gale decided to retire from farming and sell his farm machinery.
The next day Gale called back and informed my father that the other 4455 is currently still for sale in his area. My father wrote down the information and asked when he could take a look at the 4455. My father hung up the phone and told me that this 4455 has a quad-range transmission, 2WD, the dual wheels are sold with the tractor and has 1,400 original hours on the tachometer. I was excited! My father traveled back to Florence a few days later and took a look at Michael’s 4455. He drove the 4455 out of the machine shed, and minutes later backed the 4455 into the machine shed. Without hesitation my father told Gale, “I’ll take it!”
On Holy Saturday in April of 2003, my father, mother (Mary Jane Conrad) and I went to pick up the 4455. It rained that day, but that happened to be a good thing because it didn’t wear the tires down as much from all the road travel. My father paid Michael’s wife for the 4455 and we said goodbye to Gale, Michael’s wife and a few other spectators that were present. Then, my father and I jumped in the cab of the tractor and smiled from ear to ear the whole way home!
On the way home, my father and I talked about how we were going to incorporate the hardly used 4455 in our farming operation. My father described on the way home that the 4455 will be used to operate most all the tillage equipment and will operate the round baler all summer long. I played around with the radio and admired all the digital gauges. It was a three-hour drive home in the 4455, but like one farmer told me this last fall, “It was worth it!” and I agree!
Currently the 4455 that my father purchased has around 2,983 original hours on the tachometer. We put roughly 100 hours on the tractor tachometer a year. We use the 4455 for chisel plowing, and it pulls a John Deere 726 18.5 foot soil finisher in the spring. It is hooked to the John Deere 567 round baler all summer long and chops a few corn stalks in the fall time of the year.
Gale and Michael took very good care of their 4455’s. The cabs were always kept cleaner than clean. The paint shined on the 4455’s like it did when the tractors were new. There were just two of a kind 4455’s, and I’m glad my father was able to find one and purchase it. Whether opening the shed door just to look at it or to hook it to a piece of equipment for a hard day’s work, I know that Michael would be proud of how we take care of his “Pride and Joy”. When you have something this nice, there really is no other option. - End.
Quite a story...thanks for sharing Andrew! Here are a couple other pics of the Conrad’s 1991 John Deere 4455, now with just under 3,000 hours:
Young Andrew did not stop there. He pursued the other sister SN# 1991 4455. He found it was sold to Fred M. from Honua Path, SC. Fred came up to Illinois all those years ago and bought the tractor for his son Ernie M. Andrew dug around and got Fred’s phone number in South Carolina and called.
“They hung up,” said Conrad. “But the next day his son Ernie called me back. The first thing he said to me was “do you want to sell your 4455?” They talked for a while. Andrew had been thinking it would be cool to perhaps buy Ernie’s 4455 and bring it home to Iowa, but after talking for while told Ernie, “you keep it in case your kids want to farm some day.”
Andrew also pursued more information from the old Murphy & Gustafson John Deere dealer in Freeport, IL that sold the sister SN# 1991 4455’s back in February of 1991. His digging turned up this interest bit of truth:
“The salesman at the John Deere dealership needed to sell two more tractors to win a trip to Florida, or someplace,” said Conrad. “The owner of the dealership was gone on vacation. When he got back he wasn’t happy with the deals his salesman had given to Gale and Michael.”
Like I said, sometimes tractors aren’t just tractors. They have their own unique and special stories. And they mean something special to those that love them.